Rabbi Haim Cassorla Views Laws Concerning Tashlikh
Laws concerning Tashlikh

On the first day of Rosh Hashanna 5765, I heard a wonderful brief remark on the subject of Tashlikh. Tashlikh is the Jewish tradition of gathering at a body of flowing water and turning one's pockets inside out, symbolically "casting off" our sins. This event takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanna, (unless it is a Shabbat), and has often, in the popular Jewish culture devolved into a family as well as a communal gathering at which the children, and adults toss crumbs of bread into the water. The children enjoy watching the fish eat the bread and the adults read the appropriate Talmudic passage as prayer.

The Rabbi mentioned that Tashlikh would be directly after the afternoon service and reminded/taught the congregation that despite the common perception, the purpose of Tashlikh was not to feed the fish. The Rabbi mentioned that it was expressly prohibited to "feed strange animals" on either Shabbat or any other Holy Day. He then defined "strange animals" as animals that are not your pets and are not dependant on you for all of their food.

I watched the United States President, George W, Bush address the United States General Assembly this morning. I thought it was a very good speech about democracy and the overthrow of despotism despite the possibility of that causing "regional instability." That is I thought so until the President reached into his pocket and tossed a crumb of bread to the mostly non-responsive audience. Immediately I thought of Tashlikh. The President was standing there and feeding these "strange animals."

The problem with this was that the "crumb" he tossed was the security, and even the existence of the State of Israel. The President spoke in magnificent terms about freedom and democracy. The President spoke of dedication and follow-through. The President spoke of the defeat of terrorists, while not clearly stating that these terrorists are Islamist Moslem Terrorists. He boldly stated that the American people (as represented by his administration for the time being), would no longer tolerate despotic regimes in the "greater middle east," an area defined in the speech as ranging from Afghanistan to the Sudan, (at least). He called for democratization and civil liberties throughout that region and the world. And then - he dropped the bomb. He said that Israel would have to pay for it all. He demanded that Israel "freeze settlement activity" without specifying where he considered Jews could live. He again called for a Palestinian State for the fictitious "Palestinian People."

The President of the United States, at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly Session, a civil Rosh Hashanna for the body, fed the "strange fishes" and we were the "bread-crumbs." Someone should have told him that he wasn't allowed to do that.

2004 Rabbi Haim Cassorla

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Rabbi Haim Cassorla

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